Yinka Kolawole writes that the novel method of choosing the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Osun State produced a few glitches.
At the beginning, the road was so tough and difficult as a result of the zoning agitations by the leaders and members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) from Osun West Senatorial District who believed that it was their turn to produce the next governor of the state.
Against all odds, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, Chief of Statff to Governor Rauf Aregbesola defeated 17 other aspirants with 127,017 votes, even gladiators from the West fell by the way side, including the incumbent Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, Elder Peter Babalola, Hon. Gafar Amere, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Adenrele Oriolowo, former Permanent Secretary, and RAMP Project Coordinator, among others.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf came second with 21,975 votes while the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salaam came a distant third with 17,958 votes.
Oyetola’s candidature was believed to be favored by some APC leaders for his sophistication in public administration and financing. Before joining Aregbesola’s cabinet in 2010, he had acquired more than 30 years experience in the private sector as a captain of industry. This background served him well, coupled with his close relationship with the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Hammed Tinubu.
Oyetola was considered as the most influential cabinet member in the administration of Aregbesola. For the past five years, he interfaced with labour unions, contractors, foreign partners and other policy makers to stabilise the administration. At a stage, the labour unions appeared more comfortable negotiating with him. No doubt he understood the running of the administration than any other cabinet member.
The argument of many party faithful who supported Oyetola was that he is cool, clam and collected and has vast experience to stabilise the state economy and increase the revenue profile. However, many politicians within the APC were not too confortable with him. They considered him too meticulous to sustain Aregbesola’s political influence.
It was clear to many watchers of the goings-on in Osun State that he was the anointed candidate of Aregbesola, although the governor denied this assumption many times. During the primary election, 32 out his 40 cabinet members worked for Oyetola and most of the strategy were coordinated from Government House by the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr, Nashir Ajibola.
The state party chairman and all the local government executive secretaries also rallied support for Oyetola to emerge as the party gubernatorial candidate.
Though he did not make his choice public, many were eager to know which candidate gained the favour of former Governor Adebisi Akande. Majority concluded that Akande’s choice could not be different from Tinubu and Aregbesola. One thing was clear, Oyetola was not given a nod by a good number of the party elders forum called Agba Osun, who were of the view that the post must be zoned to Osun West. The adoption of direct primary watered down their influence.
The capacity of Oyetola to sustain and consolidate Aregbesola’s giant stride is not in question considering the prominent role he is playing in the present administration especially managing the state’s huge debt profile. His biggest headache may be local politicians who do not see him as one of them.
One of the 17 governorship aspirants, Barrister Kunle Adegoke ‘K-Rad’ alleged that plans had been concluded to impose Oyetola as the party’s candidate in the primary election.
He vowed to fight the process which he described has “a game without rules”, saying the action of the party was an “advance notice of an imminent chaos.
Adegoke who spoke at a press conference in Osogbo said the argument of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, on the direct primary was sound, but was dogged by certain constitutional, legal, political and moral challenges which simply exposed the leadership of the party as not as law-abiding as expected.
According to Adegoke, “it is certain that INEC cannot mobilise at least 332 personnel to monitor the direct primary election in the 332 wards in the state.
“If the election would be conducted through and supervised by the compromised officials of government who are already prominent campaigners for the state-anointed aspirant, Oyetola, then, military dictatorship cannot be less democratic as the determination of the present government in determining its successor is more than glaring.
“Less than 24 hours to the novel direct primary election, no guideline have been issued by the National Working Committee with the approval of the National Executive Committee to guide all aspirants and voters. It is clear that there are no rules in form of guidelines to even govern the election. It is a game without rules, which is an advance notice of an imminent chaos.
He said the APC has no credible membership register and no such register has been publicly displayed or shown to any of the 17 aspirants less than 24 hours to the primary.
Adegoke also alleged that supporters of the “state-anointed aspirant, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola”, have been threatening supporters of other aspirants not to appear at the ballot centres except they are ready to vote for the purported anointed candidate.
“It would be impressive for our ‘democratic’ National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to deepen democratic ethos in the party by applying direct primaries to all other elections like National Assembly, State Assembly, and governorship in all states so that our members can be more involved in the new-found democratic process of direct primaries.
“Any attempt to change the rule after Osun state gubernatorial election would only expose the National Chairman as less than honest but hypocritical which I want to believe he is not.
He however declared his readiness to participate in the election for legal reasons, insisting that “this primary election is already schemed in favour of Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola.
A prominent governorship aspirant, Alhaji Moshood Olalekan Adeoti formally withdrew his participation from the Osun State APC governorship primary.
This was contained in a statement issued and signed by the Director of Media and Publicity of Moshood Adeoti Campaign Organisation (MACO) Mr. Kayode Agbaje and made available to newsmen. According to him, Adeoti’s decision to withdraw from the race was hinged on his resolve to abide by a resolution of the Osun West Senatorial District wing of the party dissociating itself from the exercise.
In addition, the frontline governorship aspirant stated that he was not going to allow his participation add credibility to a skewed and jaundiced process already designed to favour an anointed aspirant.
Adeoti however informed his teeming supporters that he was still very much in the race to contest and win the governorship election come September 22, 2018.
With the claims that direct primary will prevent inducement of voters, governorship aspirants stormed voting centres with money. THISDAY checks gathered that each voter went home with not less than N2,000 even with the large turnout.
The money was openly displayed while voters were on queue collecting money shared by representatives of the aspirants.
The election was peaceful with counting of voters, carefully carried out. While the voters’ register was made available in some wards, others were restricted to counting of voters on the queue only.
Security agents were at each ward visited by our correspondent while the counting was done.
However at Union Baptist Government School, Ward 4, Osogbo Local Government, representatives of the aspirants were seen in two groups within the school premises distributing money to their supporters.
All the supporters were given N2,000 in the presence of policemen and Civil Defence Corps members. At Salvation Army School, Alekuwodo, Ward 5, Osogbo, voters were stranded waiting for electoral register till they left in the afternoon.
The leading aspirant, Oyetola, commended the security and electoral officers for a peaceful conduct of the primary.
Another aspirant, Adegoke complained that only one register was brought out of the 10 polling units in his ward at Ward 3, Olorunda Local Government, Osogbo.
He stressed that no voting material was brought to ward 9, 10 and 11 in Boripe Local Government Area of the state where he monitored, adding “at a ward in Olorunda, they didn’t use voters register, they just asked people to queue and they were counting them and in the whole of Boluwaduro Local Government, no accreditation was done.
At the end of the day, it was reported that over 350,000 APC members turned out for the exercise. Late arrival of materials seemed to be a common hindrance in some polling centres.
However, the governorship primary took place in the 332 wards. The whole atmosphere was conducive as there was peace in all the centres.
Our Correspondent visited places like Iwo, Ikire, Olupona, Osogbo and Gbogan. There were no ugly incidents in any of those places. However, the primary election was marred by late arrival of electoral materials and outright absence of electoral officials. The exercise was also threatened by voter apathy as turnover of the electorate remained unimpressive.
The APC Electoral Committee scheduled commencement of voting at 8:00 am in the 30 local governments including the Area Office, Modakeke to elect party’s candidate for the gubernatorial election.
In Ayedaade and Irewole local government areas reported that at 10:20 am, electorate were waiting for materials.
At ward 4, Otun Olufi Secondary School, Gbongan, voters were seeing waiting for electoral materials. This was also the scenario in ward 9, AUD primary School, Atile Ikire
Meanwhile, the APC in the state of Osun has congratulated members of the party and the aspirants who participated in the election that produced Oyetola as the flag bearer of the party in the governorship election scheduled for September 22, 2018.
According to the party, ‘the peaceful and orderly participation of APC members made the event so credible and rancor-free that the party is delighted and proud of everyone who contributed to this remarkable outcome’.
The party was ‘especially impressed and proud of the attitude of the aspirants that exhibited an uncommon spirit of sportsmanship, which was not anticipated by observers and even some supporters of the party’.
The APC also congratulated the winner and every other aspirant, ‘for the zest and positive approach they brought into their campaign’, noting that those who had thought the APC would implode because of the robustness of the campaign ‘were at the worst pleasantly surprised’ that the party members finished the event in one peace.
The APC attributed this ‘ground success’ to the decision of the party’s National Working Committee to adopt direct primary which operated the distinctive ‘option A4’, that requires voters to line up behind their choice of candidates and be counted. It was a fool-proof method beyond controversy that hopefully will become universal with the political parties in the country.
‘Now that we have the primary behind us, we urge our members to be actively involve in the intensive war for governorship election so that victory will be ours
However, the APC urged all the contestants who participated in the exercise and those who didn’t, to rally behind the popular choice of our party members, as one united force so that victory will be assured for the APC in September.
Also a group of observers who monitored the governorship primary election have recommended the direct primary system for other political parties and subsequent primaries in the country.
The group, Comrade Ola Oni Centre for Social Research in collaboration with Coalition of Civil Societies in Osun State at a press conference jointly addressed by Comrades Wale Adebisi, Amitolu Shittu and Waheed Lawal.
The group stressed that the direct primary as observed in Osun, reduced manipulation and inducement of voters with money as experienced in the past exercises.
“From all variables and indices available to us on the field, the direct primary is actually the best so as to encourage internal, all inclusive democracy, because every party members is involved.
“It eliminates the emerging trend where aspirants camped delegates and bribe each with huge amount of money. It also eliminates manipulation to a large extent.
“We hereby encourage every other political party to embrace this process of direct party primary so as to improve the Internal democracy of the party politics which will gradually reduce the issue of financial inducement.
“Direct primary election process truly attests to the fact that democracy is truly for the people. Regardless of all shortcomings and drawbacks observed during the exercise, the process is still the best because it is transparent, free and fair.